Bed bug monitoring is a key step in early detection of a bed bug infestation and effective control. It allows pest management professionals to focus treatment efforts on areas where bed bugs are known to be most active, resulting in less overall contamination and higher efficacy of treatments.

While many different types of monitoring tools are available, recent studies have found passive pitfall-style traps to be the most cost effective (Wang et al. 2009a, 2011). Passive pitfall traps work by intercepting bed bugs as they disperse from their hiding places for a blood meal. They are most effective when placed under beds and upholstered furniture, but may be used in other areas such as hallways or living rooms.

When using traps for detection, they must be regularly checked and cleared of debris. Some traps are easier to inspect than others, and a smooth-sided plastic tub can help reduce the amount of bed bug dirt that escapes during trapping. In addition, some monitors use a strong attractant for capture, which can require additional cleaning and dumping of the trap, while others are designed to be non-toxic and do not need to be emptied or cleaned.

Several types of active monitors are also available, which attempt to mimic the behavior of a bed bug when searching for food. These devices are typically more expensive than passive monitors, and some require electricity, which can limit where they are used in occupied dwellings or prohibit their use in vacant areas (further research is needed to evaluate this issue). bed bug monitoring tools that employ heat, light, or pheromones can also be useful in detecting bed bugs. However, these devices often do not perform as well as passive monitors in detecting low-level infestations and can be difficult to operate and interpret.

Visual inspections are commonly used to detect a bed bug infestation, but they can be time-consuming and unreliable when only a few insects are present. They are also susceptible to misunderstanding and misdiagnosis, as reactions to insect bites can be difficult to discern from the sensitivity of an individual’s skin. Other detection methods such as the use of a dog to sniff out bed bugs can be expensive and may unintentionally advertise an infestation to other occupants.

While monitoring tools are essential to an effective bed bug prevention and treatment program, practical actions such as checking a hotel room before sleeping, accurately inspecting second-hand furniture, sealing cracks and crevices to discourage harborage, and regularly inspecting upholstered furniture, can significantly reduce the risk of a bed bug infestation. In addition, the use of traps and other passive monitoring tools can enable housing managers to adopt a proactive approach to bed bug detection, which can reduce treatment costs by providing the necessary lead time for effective treatments. Karen Vail, professor of extension urban entomology at the University of Tennessee and an author of the study, notes that “Housing managers must realize that the cost of passive monitors will be offset by savings from reduced treatment costs, which can be significant when a small infestation is detected quickly.”